OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Katherine

November 01, 2017

Meet Katherine – an educational administrator and a lifelong athlete. When she was not out and about exercising with her dog or riding her horse, Katherine spent her free time playing volleyball, tennis, and doing Katherine with her horseCrossFit. Athletics was something Katherine was passionate about her entire life, but this came to an unfortunate halt when she suffered from a complete rupture of her Achilles tendon while playing mixed-doubles tennis in the summer of 2016.
Katherine went to the emergency room the night of her injury and was given a referral to a practice that could not see her in the office for two weeks. Knowing she needed to be seen as soon as possible and having past experiences with OAA Orthopaedic Specialists, Katherine called for an appointment and was seen by Dr. Kaufman that same day. “After my initial encounter with Dr. Kaufman, I felt confident that I was in good hands with him as my surgeon, relieved that he saw me immediately, and thankful that he made my surgery a priority. Due to the severity of the injury, Dr. Kaufman adjusted his surgical schedule to optimize the repair and recovery of the tendon. I was in the operating room four days after my injury,” Katherine recalled.
Dr. Jay Kaufman is a board-certified podiatrist with extensive training and experience in the field of foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Kaufman and his partner, Dr. Dean Sorrento, have been voted best podiatrists in the Morning Call Readers’ Choice Awards in 2016 and 2017. Reflecting back on Katherine’s injury, Dr. Kaufman shared, “Katherine sustained a complete rupture of her right Achilles tendon which resulted in a gap between the torn margins. Following the initial exam and diagnosis, the decision to surgically repair this common injury was made. Intra-operative findings were consistent with pre-existing tendinosis. Tendinosis is a chronic change to a tendon where it becomes thickened and undergoes degeneration, thus predisposing her to rupture from a sudden load on the tendon. At times, early tendinosis will Jay Kaufman, DPMpresent as an ache or tightness with increased activity but at times there is no warning sign. The surgical repair was performed by bringing the ruptured ends together using a strong suture. Given the findings of tendinosis, the repair site was reinforced with application of an acellular human dermal graft which becomes part of the tendon over time. This increases repair strength and reduces chance for recurrent rupture at that site. Katherine was made aware of the need to aggressively rehab the limb following the repair. After this kind of rupture there is limb weakness that typically requires aggressive therapy and patient perseverance to overcome the weakness; oftentimes over a course of 6-12 months.”
After Katherine’s surgery, the road to recovery was long and arduous. When asked about her recovery, Katherine shared, “Recovery after surgery was challenging both personally and professionally. For three weeks I was in a leg cast, which eventually transitioned into a boot. Due to the fact that recovery was progressive weight-bearing, I was on crutches for months. As such, it was very difficult living independently and managing simple day-to-day life skills. Thankfully, friends and family came in shifts to help manage my daily routine and the series of doctor and physical therapy appointments. About a week after surgery, I went back to work, which in hindsight might have been a little overzealous on my part. Work presented a challenge as I was dependent on rides to and from work and needed assistance just to get organized and self-sufficient in my environment on crutches. For my entire life, I was such an independent person and not being able to come and go as I pleased was so difficult for me to accept.”
“When the time came for physical therapy, it was suggested that I set three achievable goals to work towards: get back in the saddle and ride my horse, drive my car, and walk my golden retriever. I was fortunate enough to have a progressive physical therapist who understood my inner drive to make the most out of my sessions. In rehab, you get out of it what you put into it! Relearning how to walk was humbling and the whole experience reminds you to never take life for granted and to celebrate the small things in life. Throughout the months of physical therapy, rehab became as much of a mental game as a physical game for me. Progress was slow and although I was putting the time and effort into recovery, gains were minimal.”
In December 2016, five months after her injury and surgery, Katherine had depleted all the physical therapy sessions that her insurance company would allow. Unfortunately, at that time she was still unable to run, jump, or stand on her toes. Katherine was not about to let her story end here: “Equipped with the tools to continue on my own, I took the rest of my rehab into my own hands and joined a gym. Four times per week, I swam in the therapy pool, did strength and isometrics rehabilitation, and utilized the treadmill and stationary bike. Eventually, all this training allowed me to progress to cardio equipment, spin classes, and outdoor cycling.”
By happenstance, Katherine ran into a familiar face at the gym shortly after she made going to the gym part of her routine. “My friend played a vital part in the continuance of my rehab progress both in the physical compartment of recovery and in the restoration of my mental recovery. Through her coaching and professional expertise, I found my inner athlete again. When I advanced to the spin classes, it allowed for much needed cardio while keeping the repaired Achilles relatively stable. I started to make the much strived for gains physically and in the process found a love for a new sport, which provided me with comradery and a new friend for life. For now, the tennis racket and volleyball remain in the closet and my new Trek bike has become a part of me,” Katherine shared.

Almost a year after her surgery and after a long course of rehabilitation, Katherine completed the Tour de Shore from Philadelphia, PA to Atlantic City, NJ to support the families of fallen police and firemen. Katherine completed the 68-mile bike ride alongside her friend and training partner that played a huge role in her physical and mental recovery after her injury. With her love for cycling growing, her recovery hardships behind her, and her friend beside her, Katherine looks forward to additional long distance rides in the very near future.
“My hope is that my story serves as an inspiration to patients facing post-surgical uncertainty. One should never settle for mediocrity, but find the strength, enthusiasm, drive, and determination to continue on the path of desired intent.  There will be setbacks. Therefore, new goals may need to be set. This may lead you in the direction you were always intended to take with people who were meant to be in your life’s journey along the way. So, enjoy the ride!”
Do you or a loved one have a similar story? Share your story with us, and you could be next month's patient ambassador!